Tag Archives: Latin America

The US sanctioned a ‘smooth as butter’ cartel operator and a Mexican soccer star allegedly working with him

The US Treasury sanctioned an alleged mid-level Mexican drug-cartel operator and his organization on Wednesday, naming them as significant foreign narcotics traffickers.

The Office of Foreign Assets Control designed Raul Flores Hernandez and the Flores drug-trafficking organization under the Kingpin Act, naming 21 Mexican citizens and 42 entities — including bars, restaurants, a soccer club, and a casino — for allegedly providing support to the organization or for being owned by people involved it.

Continue reading The US sanctioned a ‘smooth as butter’ cartel operator and a Mexican soccer star allegedly working with him


Brazilian Gang Enlists FARC Rebels for Drug Trade

SÃO PAULO, Brazil—This country’s largest criminal organization is recruiting members of Colombia’s once-powerful rebel group as it seeks heavy-weapons and other expertise to help expand its hold over Latin America’s drug trade, investigators and officials in both countries say.

First Capital Command aims to broaden its criminal footprint with Colombian rebels’ heavy-weapons skills.

Continue reading Brazilian Gang Enlists FARC Rebels for Drug Trade

Sunken British warship with £1 BILLION in gold to be raised from the ocean 250 years after battle

A sunken British warship wrecked off the coast of South America is due to see the light of day once again – along with £1billion in gold coins .

The Lord Clive was blasted by cannon fire in 1763 after an attempt to reclaim Uruguay’s Colonia del Sacramento, a former British colony which had been seized by the Spanish.

Continue reading Sunken British warship with £1 BILLION in gold to be raised from the ocean 250 years after battle

Drug War Debate Divides Latin America, U.S. at OAS Summit

Latin American governments traditionally allied with the U.S. on anti-drug efforts are increasingly divided as countries from Costa Rica to Colombia seek a debate over legalization at a regional summit.

Officials from the 35 members of the Organization of American States are meeting in Guatemala City today in a special session called a year ago to address counter-narcotics policies.

Continue reading Drug War Debate Divides Latin America, U.S. at OAS Summit

Welcome to the Bolivian Mountains, Where Magical Realism Is a Way of Life

Waska Tatay is part ethnography, part picture-book fairy tale.

In 1940s-era Latin America, a new genre of literature started to take off. Magic realism, initially inspired by the Surrealist art movement, started to gain major traction when Gabriel Garcia Marquez published his epic One Hundred Years of Solitude. In magical realism, men could live well into their 200s. Women could levitate above the ground, and bake emotions into their food.

The photography book catalogues three months that Swiss photographer Thomas Rousset and designer Rapaël Verona spent in Bolivia.

Echoes of magic realism can be found today throughout the Aymara region of Bolivia. The mountainous area is home to some 2 million indigenous people who practice a peculiar blend of Roman Catholicism (a remnant of Spanish colonization), and Aymara mythology, which includes the worship of Pachamama(“Mother Earth”).

The mountainous area is home to some 2 million indigenous people who practice a peculiar blend of Roman Catholicism (a remnant of Spanish colonization), and Aymara mythology.


These people, and the fantastically ornate costumes and garb they wear in honor of their mythology, are the subject of Waska Tatay, a book by Swiss photographer Thomas Rousset and designer Rapaël Verona.


Part ethnography, part picture-book fairy tale, Waska Tatay catalogues three months that Rousset and Verona spent in Bolivia. Verona had lived there before, and when he returned to Switzerland he regaled Verona with stories about the country’s unique spiritual culture.

Each costume honors a spirit or is an expression of a folk legend.

The pair decided to visit the Altiplano region of the country together, to study and photograph the ways Bolivians keep their rituals alive today. Verona’s wife is Bolivian, and brokered their relationship with many of the subjects. The duo sat with her father, for example, and learned about how the Aymara stay up all night on Tuesdays and Fridays.

On those days humans are more susceptible to evil spirits, so it’s tradition to stay awake, smoking Maitos (handmade cigarettes). When smoke is exhaled, the evil spirits get pushed away.


The most decadently costumed people in Waska Tatay are Orureños, from Oruro, where the annual carnival is held. Rousset and Verona visited the artisan neighborhood in town where professionals have been making these costumes from metal, repainting them for years on end.

Each costume honors a spirit or is an expression of a folk legend. The Jukumari bears for instance, fought against the plagues brought on by Wari, a feared God. The bears ornate masks are painted with plague imagery, like snakes, insects, and ants.

Rather than just photograph the costumes and the iconography like photojournalists, Rousset and Verona decided to stage some of the photos and create a mise en scène directly inspired by magical realism.

Rather than just photograph the costumes and the iconography like photojournalists, Rousset and Verona decided to stage some of the photos and create a mise en scène directly inspired by magical realism. Costumed characters aren’t always in parades or at ceremonies; they’re sitting at a drafting table, bent over work supplies.

Two women perch on a desk near modern appliances, like televisions. Another worshiper sits on a naked mattress, and a plastic bottle beverage sits on the floor.

aska Tatay focuses on these people, and the fantastically ornate costumes and garb they wear in honor of their mythology.


“We decided to mix two languages: one very staged and those that are very snapshot,” Verona says. “We mixed a lot to create ambiguity for the reader, in knowing what’s real and what’s fiction.”

They also slyly threaded pieces of technology into the photos, thus altering the meaning of “magic realism” for a modern day audience. One picture shows a girl standing in a tree, wearing an outfit of leaves. She’s holding a cellphone up to her ear. Communication with spirits is a common part of Aymara worship, even today.

“You could see that the girl is a witch, trying to talk with divinities or evils,” Verona says, “but her voice to God is replaced by a cell phone.”

Paprika: A primer on Hungary’s spicy obsession

Hungarian paprika's so sweet it can even be used in desserts. In fact, Hungarians spoon it into pretty much any dish you can think of.

It’s as red as blood and, for the traditional Hungarian chef, no less essential for a healthy life.

But humble paprika — national spice and integral to all the most treasured Hungarian dishes — has been having a rough time.

Hungarian paprika production has slumped as buyers across the world have turned to cheaper supplies from Spain, China and Latin America.

Christopher Columbus discovered the paprika pepper on his journeys around central America. Hungarians regard this as his most important achievement.

And two years of unpredictable weather in Hungary may mean this year’s crop of capsicum annuum peppers — the raw ingredient of paprika — is the poorest in 50 years.

Horror of horrors, Hungary may even resort to importing the crop.

But despite these trials, and past upsets such as the communists nationalizing paprika production, the spice remains as crucial as ever to the Hungarian soul.

Speaking of discoveries, Albert Szent-Györgyi won a Nobel Prize for Hungary for his work on Vitamin C. He also found out that paprika was bursting with it.

To understand Hungarians, you need to know a little bit about their favorite ingredient.

And if all else fails, this paprika primer will make for good talking points if you’re stuck in a Budapest goulash restaurant on a rainy afternoon.

1. It’s Mexican

Well, from around those parts, anyway.

Paprika peppers aren’t indigenous to Europe — the spice was among the treasures collected by Christopher Columbus on his expeditions around southern Mexico, Central America and the Antillies in the 15th century.

Paprika: Seven months from pepper seed to powder.

Paprika: Seven months from pepper seed to powder.

It made its way to Hungary via the Balkans a little later, where it was grown in the gardens of the aristocracy.

Its name is the diminutive of a Slavic word for pepper: “Papar.”

“We believe Columbus’s mission was a success because he came back to Europe with a marvelous spice,” says Gyula Vegh, of the Szeged Paprika Museum, in southern Hungary.

“He discovered America on the way.”

2. There are two — yes, two — paprika museums

And two paprika festivals — one in the town of Kalocsa (Hungarian site only) and another in Szeged, which has been the center of the Hungarian paprika industry for more than a century.

And, no, Szeged doesn’t have a huge fiberglass paprika pepper on a pole just outside town.

After World War II, the communist state nationalized paprika production. Private traders faced jail if caught.

The two museums are also both working production plants.

The Szeged Paprika Museum (Felső Tisza-Part 10, Szeged 6721, Hungary; +36 20 980 8000) shares a building with the Pick Salami factory — visitors get three varieties of salami to taste and a 10 gram sampling of paprika.

Visitors to the Paprika Molnar (Hungarian site only) factory, in the village of Roszke, get a guided tour from the company’s CEO, Anita Molnar, as well as a spice sample.

“When people see how much work paprika-growing takes, they appreciate what they get in their little takeaway bag,” Molnar says.

Dried paprika peppers resemble red potato chips and can be eaten like that — they’re a big hit among kids visiting the Molnar factory.

But both are also working spice factories. And, yes, you do get a paprika souvenir on the tour -- a takeaway 10-gram bag.

3. Hungarian paprika is super sweet

It takes seven months, from seed to ground powder, to produce paprika.

Hungarian paprika peppers are sweeter than others because of the country’s cool growing season, which retains sugar in the spice.

The weather also affects the color of the paprika.

“In hotter regions such as Peru or western China, the sun makes the paprika dark red,” Molnar says.

Old and childless women picked the fiery crop.

Old and childless women picked the fiery crop.

“As the sugar content decreases, the red color is enhanced.”

But Hungarian paprika wasn’t always so sweet.

In the 1920s, the peppers were of such a hot variety they could only be used after the pith had been removed, typically by women workers.

“However, women with little babies couldn’t do the job because they’d have to touch the children afterward,” Molnar explains.

“So unmarried women, or those with older children, picked the peppers instead.”

Paprika takes about seven months to produce from seed to powder -- when it's ready to dispense in everything from spicy sausage (kolbász), to fish soup and cake.

4. It’s not just for goulash — try cake

Early last century, 830 workshops in Szeged alone processed peppers for paprika.

But after a Hungarian botanist cultivated a new — naturally sweet — variety, large-scale farming became possible and the artisans were replaced.

Hearty and cheap, the classic paprika-rich dish goulash was originally considered peasants’ food.

But paprika’s good for more than goulash: It’s liberally dispensed in the dishes served at Sotarto Halaszcsarda (Roosevelt tér 14, Szeged, Hungary; +36 62 555 980) fish restaurant in paprika central, Szeged.

In Budapest, the upmarket Zeller bistro (Izabella utca 36-38, Budapest 1077, Hungary; +36 30 651 0880) gets rave reviews for its wide range of paprika-rich offerings.

It sounds strange but Hungarian paprika’s also sweet enough to use in desserts.

“Even I didn’t know that paprika could be used for sweets and not only savory dishes,” says Lajos Kossar, a Hungarian food writer and chef.

“Then I tasted my grandmother’s paprika cake.”

5. The communists traded it for hard currency

After World War II, paprika production in Hungary was nationalized by the communist government.

Local growers were prohibited from milling their own paprika powder and had to hand over all their peppers to state-owned mills.

“The old lady who looked after me when I was a child was sent to prison for four months for being caught selling two kilos of paprika,” Molnar says.

“Paprika was strategic. Each year several thousand tonnes were exported for Deutschmarks or dollars.

“The communists needed the foreign currency.”

6. Paprika’s bursting with vitamin C

Big pile of paprika -- and a lot of Vitamin C.

Big pile of paprika — and a lot of Vitamin C.

The Hungarian scientist Albert Szent-Györgyi won the Nobel Prize in 1937 partly for the discovery of vitamin C. He also found a high vitamin C content in paprika peppers and learned to extract it.

Szent-Györgyi sent vitamin C crystals from paprika peppers to parts of the world where people were suffering from scurvy.

Special Court convicts Darko Saric to 20 years in prison

Darko Saric was sentenced on Monday to 20 years in prison for trafficking 5.7 tons of cocaine from Latin America to Western Europe.

All other members of his group on trial have also been found guilty. Neither Saric, who refused to show up, nor his lawyers were present in the courtroom today.

Judge Sinisa Petrovic said that Saric, Goran Sokolovic and Zeljko Vujanovic, as well as late Ivan Dudic aka Fric, were found to be organizers of the criminal group. Sokovic was sentenced to 20, and Vujanovic to 18 years in prison.


Rodoljub Radulovic, aka Misa Banana, who is a fugitive, was also found guilty and sentenced to 11 years and six months.

The defendants have the right to appeal against these first-instance ruling.

The Organized Crime Prosecution said in its closing statement that Saric and others should be sentenced from 30 to 40 years in jail, and at the same time asked the court to jail collaborating witnesses for six to ten months.

Saric rejected the indictments against him, saying there was no proof he organized the cocaine smuggling, and accusing “former authorities” of fabricating the case against him.

Six indictments against a total of 36 defendants were merged during this legal process that started in 2009 when the first suspects were arrested, and around 2 tons of cocaine seized in Uruguay.

The case was expanded on several occasion since. More than 14 of those accused are still at large.

The unified trial started in April 2013 in Belgrade, where Saric and his group stood accused of smuggling a total of more than 5.7 tons of cocaine from Uruguay, Brazil and Argentina to Western Europe, during 2008 and 2009.

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